Category Archives: Romance novels

Deerbourne Inn Dates

Today I’m talking to Linda Carroll-Braddauthor of 51 short stories, novellas and novels in contemporary and historical romance. She is a contributing author to the Deerbourne Inn series and her book Freedom’s Path was recently released.

What’s the first book you remember reading on your own as a child, or your favourite childhood read?

The Little Red Hen. My mom said I knew if she skipped any words or turned the page too soon. She says I was reading. Looking back, I’m wondering if I had just memorized it.

What’s your favourite place to write?

My computer desk is set in a corner of an office I share with my husband. Very functional with my research books in 2 bookshelves to my left. When I need a break, I go upstairs and write in a notebook on a couch with a view of nearby mountains.

What’s the most important lesson you have learned on your writing journey so far?

The story is often better in my head, and my job is to make it as close to that perfect story on the page.

What do you do when you feel stuck? 

I either pick up a romance to read or I switch to another aspect of the project. If I’m creating pages, then I go back and edit, or I think of an upcoming scene and write the description for the setting.

Writers are readers too. Please recommend a romance you recently read and enjoyed.

Starlight Bridge by Debbie Mason and Herons Landing by JoAnn Ross

What was it that appealed to you about the Deerbourne Inn series?

For the past several years, I’ve participated in several multi-author series, and I like the framework provided. In this series, the framework is the inn and the town. Because I chose to set my story before the Civil War, I had to envision what was already established in the series bible and scale it back more than one hundred fifty years.

What was the inspiration behind Freedom’s Path?

Years ago (before I started writing), quilting was my hobby, and recently, I read a book perf5.000x8.000.inddthat revealed how quilts were hung on fences or clotheslines to serve as signals to escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad. Of course, people were the ones to choose the quilt to hang, a fact which helped me form the heroine.

Tell us about Freedom’s Path in 100 words or less.

Working at the Deerbourne Inn provides Sidonie Demers the perfect cover for helping on the Underground Railroad. The quilt patterns she selects direct escaping slaves to the safest route. The cause is personal for octoroon Sidonie whose mother and grandmother escaped bondage years earlier. Army Corporal Colin Crawford arrives in Willow Springs, disguised as a salesman, to locate abolitionist activity. Raised anti-slavery, he’s conflicted about upholding the Fugitive Slave Act but believes in fulfilling his duty. The attraction is irresistible, but what happens when their true identities are revealed?

Do you have an extract you can share with us?

As he waited for Kevyn’s footsteps to fade, Colin finished his tart. His mind whirled with a topic that he worried might be too forward. After a swallow of coffee, he angled his head and met her gaze. “I saw how you broke that man’s hold. Smart move.”

Eyes wide, she gasped, rested a hand on the table edge, and crouched next to the end. “Oh, please don’t tell Missus Deerbourne that I stomped on a guest’s foot.” Her dark brows drew together. “I’m not sure she’d view my action in the same way you do.”

Her response rankled. Wasn’t the innkeeper concerned for the safety of her workers? He wished he could offer comfort by covering her hand with his. “Can you not carry a small knife in a pocket to protect yourself?”

A laugh escaped as she shook her head then gripped the band of her hat and pulled it lower on her forehead. “Not an appropriate accessory for someone in my position.”

Colin disliked the idea of her being vulnerable to a man’s mauling. “The foot stomp can take a man by surprise, but often not for long enough to effect an escape. Might I demonstrate another move that guarantees a longer distraction?” He sorted through the various moves involved in his ranger tactical training for the one most effective to someone her size. Leverage was what was needed to counter a larger foe.

“I am eager to learn.” She set the tray on the table. “What do I have to do?”

Bracing both hands on the table, he pushed himself to a stand and took a couple steps away from the bench. “Walk toward me like you’re about to grab my arms.”

A blush rose in her cheeks, and she averted her gaze. “Oh, I couldn’t, Mister Crawford.”

Her modesty produced a chuckle. “Miss Demers, don’t worry. You won’t hurt me. Remember, you’re learning a new skill.”

After a nod, she stepped forward with her arms outstretched and fingers spread wide. “Like this?”

“Keep walking.” He balanced his weight on the balls of his feet. When she came within reach, he grabbed the thumb of her left hand and bent it backward.

“Ow.” She contorted her body, back arching in the opposite direction.

He knew her movements were instinctual, with her body acting on reflex to reduce the pressure. “See how you moved to get away from the pain.” He released his hold with reluctance, because he’d enjoyed the slide of her soft palm in his.

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 Where can readers find you online?

Thank you for stopping by Linda. I love historical tidbits, and your one about the quilt is a gem.

Deerbourne Inn Dates

Today I’m talking to Julie Howard, author of three mysteries, Crime and ParadiseCrime Times Two, and recently Spirited Quest. She is a contributing author to the Deerbourne Inn series. Spirited Quest is available now.

What’s the first book you remember reading on your own as a child, or your favorite childhood read?

I started reading very early, at age three. My parents even started me in a private kindergarten a couple of weeks before I turned four because of this. I don’t remember what that first book would have been – most likely Dr. Seuss – but my favorite childhood read was My Friend Flicka.

I had a huge horse crush as a girl, and probably read Black Beautyfifty times. All through school, I was in the library every Saturday as soon as it opened and carried out an armload of books.

What’s your favorite place to write?

In cafes! I love the buzz of conversation around me as I write. I think this goes back to my days as a newspaper reporter and editor, working in a bustling newsroom where people moved about, TVs were on, and even arguments broke out. I can shut out almost any noise, but I find it difficult to write in complete silence.

What’s the most important lesson you have learned on your writing journey so far?

Never give up. And never give up on yourself. Writing and getting published isn’t easy. I have much more admiration of writers now that I’m published and understand a bit of what they’ve been through too. I don’t get discouraged easily and the early rejections didn’t stop me. In fact, they urged me on and prompted me to get better. Sort of like “Oh, you didn’t like this? Let me try again.”

What do you do when you feel stuck?

I’m a big believer in outlining my books and this helps enormously in not running into writer’s block. Every once in a while, however, I hit a spot where the plot just isn’t working, and I do get stuck. At that point, I move on to another scene later in the book. Usually, by the time I’m done with another scene, a resolution comes to me for the earlier scene I was stuck on. If not, I just keep moving forward. I never let myself stop writing.

Writers are readers too. Please recommend a romance you recently read and enjoyed.

I loved The Golem and the Jinii by Helene Wecker. This isn’t your ordinary romance since the characters aren’t human (and Golems aren’t technically alive) and it’s more a romance of the heart than the body. It’s a great story and so well-written. I’m anxiously awaiting the author’s next book.

What was it that appealed to you about the Deerbourne Inn series?SpiritedQuest_w13051_750

To be honest, I’m surprised I ended up writing for the Deerbourne Inn series at all. I didn’t know if I could write a good short mystery. But once I learned there was a ghost at the Deerbourne Inn, the plot came to me in a flash. All of a sudden I HAD to write the story. It was as though the ghost haunted me until I wrote about her. Now I’m hooked on writing shorter novels and would love to write more of them.

What was the inspiration behind Spirited Quest?

Since childhood, one of my favorite types of books to read has been magical realism. It was just a matter of time before I sat down to write a ghost story. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to write this one. I’ve always believed there was something behind the closet door and under the bed, but these days I’m not afraid of them.

Tell us about Spirited Quest in 100 words or less.

My main character, Paige Norman, believes in a tangible, explainable world. When her ghost-hunting niece comes for a visit, she tries not to scoff. But someone, or something, is stirring up trouble at the Deerbourne Inn and her niece, Jillian, is at the center of the mystery. Paige is certain the handsome Aussie photographer is behind unexplained disturbances. Meanwhile, Jillian gets to know the spirit of the Deerbourne, who foretells an encounter with “two men.” Then the pranks turn dangerous. Has her niece attracted a stalker or has she conjured up evil? Can the culprit be the man who has captured her heart?

Do you have an extract you can share with us?

He nodded a friendly greeting to her, his gaze grazing past to include others on the porch. “G’day, ma’am. G’day all.”

An Australian. Her heart skipped a beat. Oh, to be twenty-five, even thirty-five, again. His gaze settled on her niece, and as always happened to men where this girl was concerned, his jaw slackened, then tightened.

Next to her, Jillian grew still, lifting wide blue eyes to the newcomer. The moment passed. He was through the front door and into the lobby, and the door closed behind him.

“You’re in for some nice company this week,” Paige commented with a smile.

A frown flickered across her niece’s face. “I’ve seen him before.”

“You’ve met?”

“Not exactly. He appeared to me in a dream.” Jillian’s blue eyes were troubled as she gazed at the Inn’s front door. She lifted one hand and rubbed the back of her head, then gave a shiver. “There was blood and I was afraid.”

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Julie Howard pix.jpg

Where can readers find you online? 

The Millionaire Mountain Climber

The Millionaire Mountain Climber is now available.

BlurbMMC.jpeg

When danger threatens a bona fide city girl, an adventurer is her only hope of rescue

Mountain climber Matt Hanley is a former investment manager whose lean body and rugged good looks epitomize an outdoor adrenaline junky. When his business partner in their country hotel is injured, he needs an efficient replacement in a hurry.

Hailey Gordon lives a chic city life free of adventures and daredevils. She craves stability and security but loses her job and boyfriend on the same day. A holiday job in France is the perfect escape from her troubles.

Sparks ignite when Matt and Hailey meet, but she resolves to ignore the flame flickering between them. Aside from the fact Matt is her boss, she is convinced he is not her type. Matt is determined to teach Hailey to look beyond appearances. He needs to show her how good they are together, even if he must risk life and limb to do so.

Extract

Hailey drank in the landscape, noticing the clarity of the late afternoon sky and the way the snow-capped peaks glistened despite the fading light.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” said Matt.  “Trending down the valley, you have the villages of Argentiere and Les Praz and the town of Chamonix. Behind Chamonix you can see the Grand Mama of all the peaks, Mont Blanc.”

“Yes, the pens––and the chocolates.” She shook her head. What hubris to name a pen after the magnificent towering peak, but what marketing genius.

Matt grinned. “Ah, you know the chocolates, do you? We’ll have to buy you some.”

“From the lips to the hips,” she murmured, “and I am sure they don’t do the mountain justice.”

“Come on, let’s get you inside before your face turns blue, and I earn a reprimand from Genie for chatting up scantily-clad women in sub-zero temperatures.”

“Really? You were chatting me up? I’m flattered.”

The smile turned wicked. “You’re welcome.” As he bent to pick up her suitcase, he dropped his head next to hers and murmured into her ear in a low, deep voice, sending shivers down her spine. “For the record, Hailey, your curves are perfect. A little chocolate won’t do them any harm.”

She blushed, and the fire of his words flickered all the way through her belly. When was the last time her ex had paid her a compliment? An appalling thought crossed her mind; she, the High Priestess of Order and Long-Term Planning, was ripe for the picking and contemplating a holiday romance.

eBook Buy Links

Amazon Australia IMG_3920

Amazon US

Amazon UK

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The Wild Rose Press

Paperback Buy Links

The Wild Rose Press

More coming soon.

Getting a manuscript ready for submission

In the not to distant future, my romance novel will be published. This is the first in a series of blog posts about my path to publication. I hope it is inspiring and helpful to other aspiring writers out there.

I’ve wanted to write a novel worthy of readers’ delight since I first went to university, saw creative writing on the course list, and realised that real people wrote books. Maybe, just maybe, I could be one of them.

I struggled on my own for years before I found my tribe at the Romance Writers of Australia. With the support and guidance of various members, I’ve made steady progress. I finalled in one competition, learnt from others, and eventually finished my first manuscript. It placed second in the Emerald Award for unpublished manuscripts. I was thrilled but still plagued by doubts. The praise received was consistent; readers liked the setting, my heroine and the dialogue. The criticism coming back was also consistent – my hero was hard to know. Although I spoke to a few publishers, I never submitted, choosing to rework it instead. I say ‘choosing to rework’ and that’s partly true. Part of me was also retreating. If I wasn’t good enough to win, was I really good enough to publish? Would I make a fool of myself submitting it to publishers? Fear of failure can be crippling. It can also be a strangely comforting bedfellow, one which makes sure you never move out of my comfort zone.

But … I really wanted to be a published novelist. I wanted it more than I feared failure and humiliation. So I set myself a goal. By the next year’s conference I would be ready to pitch my revised and improved romance to publishers. I added 30,000 words to the story and thought about the story a lot, what worked, what didn’t. I also thought about what I would do if no one wanted it. I could self-publish. However, I really wanted to take my first steps in publishing with someone more experienced holding my hand. I wanted the support and the learning curve an author gets when working with an experienced editor and publisher. I’ve worked in the industry for years, so I know how valuable that experience can be.

When the annual RWA conference came around again in 2017, I was ready and prepared to face the threat of rejection again. I’d changed my title from the sweet-sounding Alpine Kisses to the sassier The Millionaire Mountain Climber. I put in my pitch request for the speed dating sessions with editors and agents. As a backup, I also made myself a list of romance publishers who accepted submissions direct from authors. I composed the list from the names of publishers who have attended RWA over the years as well as those who publish the books I like to read. I went online to their submission pages and copied their requirements. If the pitches didn’t go well, I had a plan B.

The pitches went okay. One agent was, frankly, rude, but said I could submit anyway. I did so, but didn’t hold my breath. Just as well because neither I, nor anyone else who pitched, ever heard back from her. One publisher was delightful and enthusiastic, and I submitted with some confidence. Another publisher said I didn’t fit their criteria, so that was a no.

However, with only one genuine show of interest, I didn’t like my odds. A month after conference, I hauled out Plan B and submitted to another ten publishers and one agent. It took time. Each one had different submission criteria. Some requested only the first five pages. Some wanted the first three chapters. Some wanted the whole manuscript. Everybody wanted a synopsis and to know a little about me, but not a one of them matched another. Each submission was unique. Some of the publishers I targeted were Australian; others English and American. I changed spelling according to the submission. While I didn’t get it all right, I reckoned it was respectful to at least make the effort. Those submissions took me another month, to the end of October 2017. I meant to submit to more agents, but decided to first see what came of round one. I also decided that if I didn’t get interest from anyone by end February, I would self-publish. I felt my story had legs now.

Next time: The call … make that the email.

Small steps beginning of big change

Sometimes, the iniquities of the world we live in overwhelm me. It’s easy to be dragged down into a space where it seems change for the better is impossible. Then an individual or organisation will do something to prove me wrong and remind me of the best qualities of humanity, like resilience, resourcefulness and hope. Last year the world seemed to going backwards, reverting to hate and bigotry, focusing on stirring up fears of  ‘otherness’ rather than looking for commonalities and humane, empathetic solutions.

This year bad things continue, but in this first quarter I have seen things to restore my hope. Teenagers marching in the US demanding better gun control. And the Romance Writers of America making a small but significant change to level the playing field of their important RITA awards for indie authors. This year, publishers and authors were required to enter a PDF not a paperback. Why is this important? Because corporations (like publishers) will always tread the conservative, proven path to success. Until proven otherwise by a massive bestseller produced at somebody else’s risk, they will confidently declare is no viable market for:Dreams Key Representing Hopes And Visions

  • wizard boarding school books in the 21st century
  • LBGTQI heroes and heroines
  • romances featuring POC
  • steampunk
  • authors from non-mainstream (read English-speaking, white, heterosexual) cultures)
  • etc. You get the idea.

The authors for these stories have found their voices in independent publishing (self publishing). Many critics still rail against the standards of indie publishing. It’s true the barriers to entry are lower. It is not true that the best of traditional publishing is better than the best of indie publishing.

The changes to the RITAs resulted in 22 indie authors making the finals – out of a total of 78 finalists, almost one third and the most ever. Other minority demographics are also better represented even if not to the same extent.

Jackie Horn has done an excellent job of analysing the data of the RITAs and what it means for diverse authors and characters. I recommend reading her post at Romance Novels for Feminists.

Small changes, big results. Go RWAmerica! Thank you for leading the way.

And go students of America! Thank God for the passion and idealism of youth.